You see this term thrown around all the time: Normalizing pedophilia. It sounds scary, and that’s the point. The people who coined the term want you to be scared – of the topic, of pedophiles, and they want you emotional. They don’t want you to think critically, and that’s the problem.
First, let’s start with definitions. Pedophilia is most accurately understood as the sexual attraction to pre-pubertal children. It doesn’t mean the sexual abuse of children – that’s… child sexual abuse. They’re not the same by any means. The facts show that most who abuse children have no attraction to them, and there are significant populations of people with the attraction who do not harm children and have joined communities to support them in that (not that every minor-attracted person needs that support to stay law-abiding, but it do be lonely sometimes).
In fact, a pedophile is simply someone with this attraction. It isn’t an impulse or an urge, it functions the same way as any other attraction. When you see someone you’re attracted to, you want to care for them, win them over, woo them, and maybe date them. Pedophiles feel that too, towards children. Of course, we’re well aware that we can’t do what we want because it would hurt children. However, just like you, we know what the ethical boundaries are when we’re adults and sometimes as teenagers we need some pointers to figure out where those boundaries are and where they should be (as any teenager does with a slew of topics, right?).
The unfortunate thing about having an attraction to children though isn’t that we can’t be sexual with kids. Most of us don’t care to be because we know that hurts kids, so the idea that we’re somehow missing out on a fulfilling life, sure that might come up from time to time, but that isn’t the main issue for most of us. No, for most of us, the main issue is that we can’t really talk about it except online with other people like us.
It’s like being a gay man living in the 1960’s, unable to come out of the closet or talk about our attractions (the obvious major difference being gay men can act on their attractions). If we tell people, we could be outed, beaten, lose jobs, housing, piss off neighbors, friends, and family. There are serious dangers to talking about it, and that’s because of stigma.
This stigma is mainly generated by fear and misunderstanding. There’s a good chance you already know people who are minor-attracted. There’s also a good chance they won’t tell you or ask you for support for fear of how you’ll respond. That’s the biggest issue for most of us.
Now let’s talk about the more ambiguous term: Normalization. According to Merriam-Webster, normalization is the process or act of making something normal. The process of the verb normalize, which they define as:
1 : to make (something) conform to or reduce (something) to a norm or standard
2 : mathematics : to make (something) normal (as by a transformation of variables)
3 : to bring or restore to a normal condition
4 : to allow or encourage (something considered extreme or taboo) to become viewed as normal
It’s clear from that definition that the meaning often used by people opposed to ‘normalizing pedophilia’ is the fourth one, to allow or encourage something considered extreme or taboo to become viewed as normal. The issue here comes with the opening paragraph about defining terms. When people use this term in this context, they intentionally or unintentionally confuse the attraction with the behavior of sexually abusing children. Personally, I think in most cases it’s intentional because it largely comes from alt-right people who have a habit of calling anyone they want a pedophile to make them seem horrible and they largely don’t seem to care what words mean.
When I say pedophilia should be normalized, I obviously don’t mean that people should be sexual with children. That isn’t what pedophilia is. Pedophilia is just an attraction, and the conversation about whether that is normal/regular or abnormal/irregular is rather besides the point. People with pedophilia are stuck with it. We cannot change it. There is no reducing or changing our attractions.
Sure, you’ve heard of chemical castration and such, but the thing is, the framework that such suggestions originate from is a framework in which we view the attraction as a disease, something that is inherently harmful. It isn’t inherently harmful. Sexually abusing children is a choice that most pedophiles choose not to make, and unless we believe that we can telepathically cause others pain (this article may not be for you if you believe that), this attraction has little consequence to society, especially if it’s a society where people with that attraction can seek support from minor-attracted people and non-minor-attracted people.
In fact, the three examples involve mental health or stigma, not the supposed harms:
Mental health issues can obviously be harmful. Bullying is harmful. It’s obviously helpful to normalize discussing such subjects and when people say we should normalize these discussions, it’s not to allow mental health issues to get worse or to let bullying happen. It’s to help human beings who are struggling with other human beings who inexplicably view the victims negatively, despite them not having any choice in having a mental health issue, being a victim of bullying, or yes, having an attraction to children.
So yes, in that sense, we do the world a favor by normalizing pedophilia because when people can get support for something they’re struggling with, that’s a good thing. It’s stinkin’ rad when humans help other humans through difficult times because everyone comes out stronger for it. The people who argue that pedophilia shouldn’t be normalized aren’t talking about mental health in a positive way or encouraging children to be safe, they’re impeding efforts to get help and resources to people.
The average age someone discovers minor attraction is age 14. That means these people are against teenagers getting help. They’re against adults living healthy, fulfilled lives in society. They’re against it for no other reason than fear and misunderstanding – in some cases, deliberate ignorance. That draconian position isn’t something any sane human should support.
I think it’s cool and stinkin’ rad when people have friends who are pedophiles and minor-attracted people because it shows they’re willing to learn, willing to help people, and that they’re willing to have empathy for people even when such empathy doesn’t benefit them personally. It also helps children because here’s a statistic you might not know: Roughly half of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by juveniles themselves. Getting children the support they need so that they know not to sexually harm other children is a fantastic thing to do, and we can’t do that if we don’t educate children on healthy and unhealthy behavior and talk about these complex issues.